The Sun has acquired a sometime columnist named Christina Blizzard. With a name like Blizzard, you’d think she must be Canadian-born. Not so. She comes from England.
Interestingly, the surname Blizzard pre-dates the moniker for winter storms. Originating in Oxfordshire, the name is dated to the 1700s, while blizzard, meaning “storm,” was first used in the U.S. in 1829.
The two blizzards have no relationship to one another. Blizzard, the name, is a variant spelling of Blisset/Blissett, meaning “blessed.” Blizzard, the snow storm, is of obscure origin. The OED suggests it may be an “echoic” word, meaning it echoes some sound. A furious blast of frosty wind perhaps? Other sources believe blizzard might have evolved from the German Blitz (lightning).
Although the proper name, Blizzard, has nothing to do with blinding snow storms, I couldn’t help wondering about other surnames which suggest foul weather.
Storm is a surname meaning “storm.” German in origin it’s well-known to students of German literature. Theodor Storm (1817-1888) is considered the all-time master of the novella (the framework story).
Snow is an English name, common in Devon, Essex and Staffordshire. John Snow (1813-1858) was a
pioneer in anesthetics and epidemiology. He is credited with tracing a cholera outbreak to impure water. Dating back to Old English days, Snow was likely a nickname for someone born or baptized during a fierce snowstorm.
Frost, also Old English, has several suggested origins — a nickname for someone with white hair or beard. Or, maybe, for one whose manner is cold and aloof, or for someone born during a cold snap. This name is common from Derbyshire to Somerset.
A famous Frost is Sir David (1939- ) who became a household name with his TV program The Frost Report. But American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) may be even more famous. In school, most of us studied Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
Winter is another Old English surname. Like Snow and Frost, this name probably began as a nickname for a person born during a harsh winter. Jonathon Winters (1925- ), American actor and comedian, and actress Shelley Winters (1922-2006), are two well-known people with this surname.
Rain/Raine/Raines is from County Durham. English actor Claude Rains (1889-1967) is probably best remembered for his role as the French police captain in Casablanca, but he also starred in Phantom of the Opera, and in many other high-profile movies.
Rains bring floods often enough. The surname Flood is the English form of the Welsh Lloyd. The name Flood originally meant, “one who lives by a well or spring.”
Many names carrying weather have nothing to do with weather. Weatherby, Weatherall, etc., are occupational names indicating work related to sheep. The confusion arises because of long-ago spelling errors. A wether is a neutered ram.
However, Scottish and Old English names, such as Fairweather, Merryweather/Merriweather, are different. These are nicknames indicating sunny dispositions.
In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo asked, “What’s in a name?”
Apparently, you never know.